Annan says Politics, not Religion, at Heart of Muslim-West Divide

November 13, 2006

Source: International Herald Tribune

Wire Service: AP

Political tensions, rather than religious differences, lie at the heart of the growing rift between the West and the Muslim world, and any broad solution to the problem must include an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday.

"We should start by reaffirming and demonstrating that the problem is not the Quran nor the Torah or the Bible," Annan said after receiving a report by an international group of scholars that proposes ways to overcome the rift. "The problem is never the faith; it is the faithful and how they behave toward each other."

Annan, who will relinquish his post to successor Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 1, said violence was fueled by fear and misunderstandings, economic disparities, wars by Western powers in Muslim countries and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

His claim that religion was not the root of the conflicts that have multiplied since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States contradicted those of some theorists who believe cultural and religious identity emerged as the main source of tension following the Cold War. One of the most prominent champions of that theory is Samuel Huntington, author of the 1996 book "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order."